Weekend Getaway To Pearl Valley, Near Anekal

We are trying to make the most of the beautiful, beautiful weather in Bangalore lately. Of late, weekends see us on heading out on long drives, exploring places, seeing the city we live in with new eyes. One of my cousins has moved from the US of A, and we are – sort of – helping him get acquainted with Bangalore. Suits me just fine! So, that’s how we came to be checking out this place called Pearl Valley one gorgeous rainy weekend.

And we’ve arrived at Pearl Valley!

Located about 40 km from Bangalore, Pearl Valley needs just about an hour’s time to drive down. The roads are in great condition, and the ride is smooth. You pass through some narrow roads and little villages en route, all of it made extra charming by the pretty weather. Google Maps is a great guide to take you to this little known picnic spot, just 5 km or so away from Anekal district.

The little lake that greets you upon your arrival at Pearl Valley

There’s not much to do at Pearl Valley, whose original name is Muthyala Maduvu. It is, however, a nice spot for a relaxed half-day picnic in natural surroundings, I would say. This is a green valley situated in the midst of mountains, and a trek through the valley will bring you to the star attraction – a waterfall. I’ll hasten to tell you that the waterfall isn’t much to look at (definitely not in the league of Jog Falls or Shivanasamudra), and the trek doesn’t really involve very rugged terrain or an extremely tough trail. That said, it’s still a scenic place to visit, especially in the monsoons, a quiet sojourn away from the chaos of city life. My 4-1/2-year-old did a fairly decent job of the trek, as did the other two little ones in our family. I’d say this is a nice place for beginner trekkers or for children to get a feel of trekking or walking amidst wilderness.

Look at that green, green valley!

A hotel run by the Karnataka Tourism Development Corporation (KTDC) – Mayura Nisarga – is the only sort of commercialisation you will find at Pearl Valley. Mayura Nisarga is, actually, a bar-cum-hotel serving vegetarian and non-vegetarian food. The hotel premises are where you park your vehicle and take a loo break, before heading down to the waterfall in the valley. Beware – monkeys run amok at this spot and are known for snatching food and drinks from the hands of unsuspecting tourists!

Up to monkey business!

The trekking trail here is still under construction. You’ll find proper steps along part of the way, while the rest is just finding your foothold amidst worn rocks and bushes and mud. There are no signboards or restrooms once you begin the trek, descending into the valley. No monkeys inside the valley, thankfully!

Down, down, down we went that steep flight of stairs!

One little girl had her first ‘trek’ experience amidst narrow trails!

The views en route are pretty, albeit nothing extraordinary. I especially loved the rustic temple we passed en route. If you need to take a break, rocks and grassy land are all you have to sit on.

Captured on camera en route

This temple had me charmed!

The waterfall you reach after the trek is, really, just a little trickle. Don’t go for the waterfall – go with family and friends to make memories along the way.

The little waterfall at Pearl Valley

Notes for travellers:

1. The villagers of Muthyala Maduvu charge an entry fee of INR 30 per vehicle. Apart from this, there’s a small parking fee to be paid for using the premises of Mayura Nisarga.

2. The food and beverages at Mayura Nisarga are pretty sad – speaking from personal experience. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to carry a lunch hamper from home. It would be best to leave the hamper in your vehicle – thanks to the monkeys – and wait till you reach a safe spot somewhere nearby, to eat.

3. The trek can be a bit much for the aged and infirm. Children above 4 can head in, I’d say, provided they are able to walk independently. It’s about a 45-minute walk in all.

4. Like I was saying earlier, there’s not much of development or vigilance inside the valley. We spotted bunches of people ducking under bushes with bottles of alcohol, and a few couples trying to get close. That said, there were quite a few families trekking the day we visited too. There’s really no one to keep an eye on the place, a sad fact.

5. Carry a backpack with water bottles, umbrellas and/or rain coats, and a few snacks while you trek. Comfortable attire for trekking is highly recommended.

6. The valley is not the cleanest of places. Be prepared to see several plastic bags and bottles, juice cartons, snack covers, alcohol bottles and the likes strewn all over.

7. There’s nothing much to do or explore in the immediate surroundings. Plan your visit accordingly.

8. Mayura Nisarga offers some good views of the valley, which you might want to check out.

9. The valley was quite green and pretty when we visited, probably because we visited in the peak of monsoon. We had good weather too, as we trekked. I doubt either of this would be the case, if you visit in the non-rainy months.

10. We didn’t come across any flora or fauna of interest, in the course of our trek.

11. Pearl Valley is open from 7 am to 7 pm every day.

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I’m also sharing this recipe with Fiesta Friday #290. The co-host this week is Mollie @ Frugal Hausfrau.

Thotada Mane: A Food Stop You Must Make In Srirangapatna

The weather in Bangalore right now is just perfect for a drive. Let me suggest to you a lovely place to consider for a drive from Bangalore – Thotada Mane in Srirangapatna. Located a little over 100 km away from the city, this is an ideal spot for a weekend getaway, especially so if you are a foodie and nature buff. Our family made a pit-stop at Thotada Mane on a recent trip to Mysore, and ended up thoroughly enjoying ourselves.

The entrance to Thotada Mane

Just how charming is that?!

A rustic eatery set up in the midst of fields in Srirangapatna, Thotada Mane is the brainchild of Guru Dutt Bharadwaj, an ex-IT man. I had the pleasure of meeting him during our sojourn to Thotada Mane, and of learning about the birth of the establishment. Owning a home in the midst of farm land was always a dream of Guru Dutt’s parents, and Thotada Mane is the manifestation of this dream. Guru Dutt and his wife live in a charming little house adjacent to the eatery and personally oversee the cooking. Most of the food served at Thotada Mane is prepared using recipes from Guru Dutt’s own family.

The pretty dining area at Thotada Mane

The wishing well on the premises!

Thotada Mane has the sort of ambience that relaxes you the minute you set foot in. The greenery all around, the gravel that scrunches under your feet as you walk in, the red oxide flooring of Guru Dutt’s house, the low wooden tables and chairs set up all around, the quirky paraphernalia on display, the gurgling of the little fountain that runs in the midst of the dining area, the cute bridge and wishing well on the premises – everything plays a part. I was charmed by the place, and I’m sure you will be too.

Cutesy!

The gurgling water kept us company as we partook of our lunch

Thotada Mane serves reasonably priced all-vegetarian fare for breakfast and lunch, from Tuesday to Sunday. They also serve tea, coffee, select beverages and tea-time snacks. I loved that the menu here is quite extensive – a mix of traditional Karnataka food and fusion dishes to please all kinds of palates. The home-style food that Thotada Mane serves, sans artificial flavouring or colouring agents and preservatives – has definitely struck a chord with patrons. The eatery, about 4 years old now, sees a steady stream of visitors by word of mouth only. Thotada Mane does not feature in advertisements of any sort – it doesn’t even have a signboard on the highway to direct tourists! We had heard about this place through some foodie friends, and used Google Maps to locate it – something I would recommend you to do, too, in case you plan on visiting.

One of the many trees on the Thotada Mane premises

Rustic wooden seating at Thotada Mane

My dad opted for a Roti Meal, which turned out to be a delicious Karnataka-style thali complete with roti, 2 types of veggies, saaru (rasam), sambar, papad, anna (rice), curd, Maddur vade and obattu (poli). The obattu, especially, was finger-lickingly good!

Roti Meal at Thotada Mane

The husband, mom and I wanted to try out various things from the menu, so we chose a mix of traditional and ‘jazzed-up’ dishes. We ordered a Cheesy Spicy Sweet Masala Papad first, which was just brilliant. The home-made peanut powder it was dusted it was an awesome, awesome thing. This was the star of the meal, for me, I would say.

Cheesy Spicy Sweet Masala Papad

Next up, we opted for Cutlet Pizza and Corn Boats, two of their appetisers. These were decent, not bad but nothing to write home about either. I loved the simple, homely style in which these two dishes had been prepared, but they could definitely have been more flavourful.

Left: Corn Boats, Right: Cutlet Pizza

We ended our meal with Curry Leaves Bath and Curd Rice, both of which were lovely. The curry leaves podi (powder) used in the former was super fresh and bursting with flavour, just the right amount of spicy. The Curd Rice was just perfect, too – simple as the dish is, achieving that is quite a feat, trust me!

Left: Curry Leaves Bath, Right: Curd Rice

The staff at Thotada Mane, including Guru Dutt, is known for their warm hospitality and friendly interaction with their customers. We had the same warm experience too, here. We even managed to get a sneak peek into Guru Dutt’s beautiful, beautiful home on the premises. He was kind enough to bring out his pet turtle (yes, you read that right!) for the bub to play with. šŸ™‚

Part of Guru Dutt’s lovely home

Ain’t it pretty?!

I loved the abundant use of natural material in the eatery and the upcycling of waste products. The see-saw with bicycle handlebars became a fast favourite with the bub, and all of us admired the washbasin designed out of a car tyre.

The car-tyre washbasin

That see-saw!

There are two toilets at Thotada Mane, for public convenience. We found them quite neat and clean.

The toilets

I am already thinking about a second trip to this place, to get hold of more of the interesting dishes on the menu! I hear their Akki Rotti (rice flour roti) and Ragi Rotti (finger millet roti) are bomb, and I definitely wouldn’t mind driving down to Srirangapatna just for those. All of us need a detox from time to time – the sort of detox where we sit peacefully and eat good food – and Thotada Mane is just the right place for that.

Table decor!

Do check out this place! I hope you’ll fall in love with it the way we did, too.

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I’m sharing this recipe with Fiesta Friday #289.

Bun Halwa| Easy Bread Halwa Without Milk

I was introduced to Bun Halwa on our visit to the temple town of Madurai, a couple of years ago. While breakfasting at the iconic Gopu Iyengar’s one day, Bun Halwa was on the list of specials. We had never tried it before, were intrigued enough to order it, and fell in love with it when it arrived. When they saw how much I was enjoying the piping-hot halwa, the serving staff was kind enough to teach me how to go about making it. After that, this has been a go-to dessert at our place, any time we have buns (or bread!) left over.

I present to you today the way I prepare Bun Halwa at home, largely the way I learnt at Madurai, with a few little flourishes of my own. Let me tell you that this is one super simple dessert to make, one you can blindly trust when you have unannounced guests over and need to make a sweet treat in a jiffy. It’s a delicious, delicious way to use up those last few bakery buns or bread that have been lying around the house, threatening to go stale! šŸ™‚

Let’s now check out the recipe for Bun Halwa aka Easy Bread Halwa.

Ingredients (serves 2):

  1. 2 medium-sized buns
  2. About 4 tablespoons ghee
  3. 1/2 cup sugar
  4. 1 cup water
  5. 1 tablespoon raisins
  6. 6-7 cashewnuts
  7. 6-7 almonds
  8. 2 generous pinches of cardamom powder
  9. 4-5 glace cherries for decoration (optional)

Method:

1. Cut up the buns into small squares. Keep ready.

2. Heat 1 tablespoon ghee in a pan, and add the bun pieces to it. Fry the bun pieces on medium flame till they get brown and slightly crisp. Do not burn them. Transfer the fried pieces of bun to a plate and keep aside.

3. In the same pan, take the water and sugar together and place on high heat. Let the sugar get completely dissolved in the water.

4. When the sugar syrup starts bubbling, reduce the flame to medium. Add in the fried bun pieces. Mix well, mashing the bun pieces with your ladle. Add in a tablespoon more of ghee.

5. Continue to cook on medium flame, stirring constantly, till the mixture leaves the sides of the pan begins to come together like a halwa. Add 1 more tablespoon of ghee to the pan at this stage, and mix well. Switch off gas.

6. Mix the cardamom powder to the Bun Halwa.

7. Now, chop the almonds and cashewnuts roughly. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon ghee in a small pan. Turn the flame down to medium, and add in the raisins and the chopped cashewnuts and almonds. Mix well and let them stay in till the raisins plump up and the nuts begin to brown. Don’t let the dry fruits and nuts burn.

8. Mix the fried raisins, cashewnuts and almonds into the Bun Halwa. Serve hot, decorated with chopped glace cherries (if using).

Notes:

1. I have used two Nilgiri’s tea buns here, which were moderately sweet. If you are using sweeter milk buns instead, you could decrease the quantity of sugar you use.

2. Bread can be used in place of buns. About 6 slices of bread could be used in the above recipe, in the place of the 2 buns.

3. Adjust the quantity of ghee and sugar you use, as per personal taste preferences.

4. A bit of rose essence can be added to this Easy Bread Halwa, too. Here, I haven’t.

5. This Bun Halwa tastes best when had hot or warm.

6. Some versions of Bun Halwa also use milk. I haven’t used any here.

7. Don’t skimp on the ghee, otherwise the halwa will stick to the bottom of the pan and turn out lumpy and tasteless.

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This post is for the Foodie Monday Blog Hop. Every Monday, the members of this group share recipes as per a certain theme.

The theme this week is #MithaiMeinTwist, suggested by Sasmita of First Timer Cook. For the theme, we are showcasing Indian dessert recipes with a twist. This Bun Halwa aka Easy Bread Halwa was my choice for the same.

I’m linking this recipe to Fiesta Friday #286, co-hosted this week are Mollie @ Frugal Hausfrau and Laurena @ Life Diet Health.

Hilton Turns 100, Celebrates With A Big Bash

I had the pleasure of being part of a very special birthday bash, last weekend, and am here to tell you all about it!

Hilton Hotels & Resorts has always been known for its hospitality and excellent service. The chain completed 100 years this May, an event that was celebrated with a grand bash last weekend at DoubleTree Suites by Hilton, Sarjapur, Bangalore. I thoroughly enjoyed the celebrations, along with some other bloggers from the city.

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The in-house restaurant at DoubleTree Suites By Hilton, Sarjapur – Asia Alive – beautifully decked up for the birthday bash

Asia Alive, the restaurant at DoubleTree Suites By Hilton, Sarjapur, was home to a lavish brunch affair on this day. A unique brunch was served to us to commemorate the special occasion, including favourites from Hilton hotels across the globe. Specially curated by Executive Chef Tanmoy Majumder, the brunch spread was quite elaborate – from North Indian curries to maki rolls, various salads and desserts to dimsums and noodles!

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Some of the dishes from the extensive brunch buffet at Asia Alive

I loved most of the food I tried out from the brunch buffet, but the Aloo Methi Masala, Waldorf Salad, Ratatouille Stuffed Peppers, Avocado Sesame Rolls, Lauki Ka Kofta, Papdi Chaat and Chocolate Brownies stole my heart. The live music playing at the venue kept us humming throughout the brunch.

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Scenes from the dessert counter at the 100th birthday-special brunch buffet by Asia Alive

After the brunch, we were shown a demonstration on the making of the chocolate chip cookies that DoubleTree is known for, the world over. It was a treat to watch the pastry chef take us through the steps in the baking of these sweet treats. The freshly-baked cookies were nothing short of fantabulous, and I now understand why they are so much loved!

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Left: DoubleTree’s famed chocolate chip cookies, straight out of the oven; Top right and bottom right: The making of the said cookies

Mr. Subhabrata Roy, General Manager, DoubleTree Suites By Hilton – Bangalore, then went on to deliver a note of welcome. He was joined by Mr. Bhojraj Sharma, F&B Manager, DoubleTree Suites By Hilton – Bangalore.

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The Hilton team, addressing the bloggers at the birthday bash. From left to right: Ms. Megha Garg, Assistant Manager – Marketing & Communication; Mr. Subhabrata Roy; Mr. Bhojraj Sharma; Mr. Tanmoy Majumder

The guests present at the brunch and the bloggers then joined the Hilton team in lighting earthen lamps, to commemorate the special occasion.

Check out those pretty diyas in the shape of a 100!

The afternoon ended with the cutting of a magnificent cake that was just as unique as the brunch. Check it out for yourselves!

The grandiose cake that was cut on the occasion of Hilton’s turning 100

Would you like to experience the beautiful brunch that I enjoyed, too? The brunch is open for all at Asia Alive on June 2 and 9, 2019, between 12.30 and 4 PM. The buffet is priced at INR 1299 per head with soft beverages and at INR 1699 per head with alcoholic beverages, plus taxes. This is something you must try out, people!

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I’m sharing this recipe with Fiesta Friday #279. The co-hosts this week are Liz @ Spades, Spatulas & Spoons and Jenny @ Apply To Face Blog.

 

 

Oki All Set To Tantalise Tastebuds With Its New Menu

One of these days, you must surely visit Kammanahalli and lunch at Oki. The long trek across the city, braving the heat and the traffic, will be totally worth it, I can tell you that. Now, you have all the more reason to trek across the city to this eatery (if you don’t live in that neck of the woods, that is) – Oki has come up with a fantastic new menu, which is all set to launch on May 20!

I had the privilege of sampling Oki’s new menu recently, expertly curated by Chef Surajit Ghara, along with a few other food bloggers from the city. I ended up getting wowed by the experience, by the sheer variety of the new dishes on offer, the perfection with which they have been executed, and the loveliness that they were taste-wise. Oki has created a name for itself in serving some amazing Pan-Asian food, and every bit of the new menu lives up to those standards.

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The simple but chic decor of Oki

The decor at Oki at simple but neat and chic. Tastefully chosen accents here and there – like silk pillows in Oriental style or the painting of elegant Chinese ladies on the walls – add class to the place. The food at Oki reflects the same philosophy – it is simple, but tastefully done, the flavours clean and bold. Let me take you, visually and literally, through all that we tried out at Oki, and all that I fell in love with at first bite.

Left: Gimbap or Korean Sushi, the vegetarian version; Top Right: Burmese Tea Leaf Salad; Bottom Right: Beetroot & Feta Cheese Maki Rolls

We tried out the vegetarian version of the Gimbap or Korean sushi, which was beautifully done. The vegetable-filled sushi had clean flavours, and was extremely delicious. The same was the case with the Beetroot & Feta Maki Rolls we tried next – the sweetness of the beetroot melded perfectly with the saltiness of the feta, to create a delectable whole. The Burmese Tea Leaf Salad was very well done, too, though it was a bit too pungent for my tastebuds.

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Flatbread with 5 Mushrooms, Pesto Cream & Jalapeno-Olive Salsa

The Flatbread with 5 Mushrooms, Pesto Cream & Jalapeno-Olive Salsa was absolutely, mind-blowingly delicious and, I would say, my most favourite dish of all that we tasted at Oki. The soft flatbread was cooked to perfection, the pesto cream silky smooth and fragrant, the plentiful toppings complementing the rest beautifully. I would highly recommend you try this out at Oki!

The dish we were served next, Garlic Bread With Artichoke Pate, went on to become a fast favourite with me too. The artichoke pate was so, so delicious I could eat it with all my meals every single day! It made for just the perfect accompaniment to the well-toasted, garlicky bread. This is another dish I cannot recommend highly enough at Oki!

I adore a well-made bowl of khao soi, and Oki’s Spicy Chiang Mai Khao Soi was exactly that. The coconut milk broth was supremely flavourful and, ladled over the flat rice noodles, it made for a hearty and filling meal.

Top Left: Garlic Bread With Artichoke Pate; Bottom Left: Spicy Chiang Mai Khao Soi; Top Right: Kimchi Ramen, the vegetarian version; Bottom Right: Vegetarian Dan Dan Noodles

The Kimchi Ramen was brilliantly executed too. Ramen noodles were served in a flavourful broth that was generously proportioned with various types of mushrooms. The taste was a tad too strong for me, though.

Next up, we were served Oki’s special Vegetarian Dan Dan Noodles, which I absolutely loved. The noodles were served with a generous dose of vegetables, in a spicy and delicious broth made using chilli oil and Sichuan pepper. You’ve got to try this out!

The Peach Berry Sauce Feta Crostini bowled me over. Sweet and sour and salty combined together in this dish to create a lovely, lovely whole. Slivers of peach served atop well-toasted bread, topped with sweet-sour cranberry sauce and a drizzle of salty feta – what’s to not love?

Top Left: Crostini With Peach, Berry Sauce & Feta; Bottom Left: Coconut Orange & Lemongrass Martini; Top Right: Peach Cinnamon Apple Crepes With Orange-Butter Sauce; Bottom Right: Chilli Mango Margarita

Oki does not serve alcohol at the moment, but does have some gorgeous mocktails on offer. To go with our meal, we were served two mocktails that will soon be part of the new menu here. The first, Chilli Mango Margarita, was one perfectly made drink, pretty inside and out! The mango was fresh and gorgeous, the hint of chilli in it only accentuating its flavour! This is something you absolutely mustn’t miss at Oki. The second, Coconut Orange Lemongrass Martini, was supremely beautiful in taste too. The flavours of coconut, orange and lemongrass melded perfectly to create this surprisingly light drink. I can’t recommend this highly enough!

And then, it was time for dessert! We were served Peach Cinnamon Apple Crepes With Orange-Butter Sauce, which was sheer brilliance. The crepes were pillow-soft, stuffed with delectable slivers of apple and peach. The orange-butter sauce drizzled on top was fruity and tangy, just the right amount of sweet and all kinds of delicious. The crepes were served topped with just a bit of sweet cream, which took the taste quotient up quite a few notches.

I loved my meal at Oki, and am sure it is something you will not regret either. It is one of the hidden gems of Bangalore, a highly under-rated place that deserves to be spoken of and eaten at. Don’t miss a gastronomical voyage at Oki – you can thank me later!

Limited parking is available.

Address: 403, Mariappa Road, Off Kammanahalli Main Road, Near Sena Vihar, Kammanahalli, Bangalore

Cost for two: Approximately Rs. 1500

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Iā€™m also sharing this post with Fiesta Friday #276.